Turtleback Falls is a bonus waterfall. If you’re in the area of Turtleback Falls, you’re likely visiting the much larger Rainbow Falls, which is on the same trail. Rainbow Falls clocks in at 125′, whereas Turtleback Falls is about 20′ tall, though it doesn’t look that tall because of the angle you’ll be viewing the falls.
The thing with waterfall explorers…I want to add Turtleback Falls to the list, so once I reach Rainbow Falls, I walk about 0.2 miles further to find Turtleback Falls. Now I’ve got another one to add to the list! Turtleback Falls is a pretty waterfall, and in another area of North Carolina even, it would be a worthwhile stop. But with Rainbow Falls downstream, it probably gets a bit lost on the radar of most people.
The hike to Rainbow and Turtleback Falls is not a quick one. It’s about 3 miles round-trip to Rainbow Falls, and then about 0.4 miles additional hiking to get to Turtleback Falls. I don’t distinctly remember the hike, but I’ve been trying to record “my” difficulty right after the hike, and I rated it as on the moderate to strenuous side. That means there was probably a consistent amount of uphill/downhill hiking.
On US-64 between Lake Toxaway and Cashiers, you’ll find a road to Gorges State Park.
If you’re heading west from Lake Toxaway, you’re not far from the park. Turn left from US-64 onto NC-281 (also known as Whitewater Road) heading south.
After a mile on NC-281, turn left onto Grassy Ridge Road, which should lead into Gorges State Park.
You’re looking for the Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Trailhead, which is about as far as you can go on Grassy Ridge Road before you start looping back toward the other roads.
Accessibility: 4/10 (moderate/strenuous) Height: 20′ Distance of Hike: 3.4 miles round-trip
I sometimes visit too many waterfalls. I had been going through pictures at one point, and noticed there seemed to be a waterfall I hadn’t identified. I remember that the waterfall was in Oregon, and went back to find out it was Umbrella Falls. I’m not sure why I missed it!
Umbrella Falls is actually found on Mount Hood. As you’re driving up to the trailhead (which ends up at the ski area if you go a bit further), you will be treated to some amazing views of the summit. The trailhead is relatively easy to find, and the hike to Umbrella Falls is relatively short at just over a quarter mile one-way. It didn’t take a particularly long time to hike to the falls, and it was a very enjoyable hike the whole way. The waterfall is 59′ tall, and is really very beautiful. On the October day I visited, it was surprisingly warm even at this higher elevation, and while the sun made it slightly difficult to photograph the waterfall, it was perfect otherwise.
There is another waterfall, Sahalie Falls, that can be viewed by continuing along this trail. It’s an additional 2.1 miles one-way. I decided to not hike that distance, and I’m guessing it was because it was later in the day and I may have been worn out. From maps, it also looked like Sahalie Falls could be quickly accessed from one of the other forest roads, but I found that the road I was looking for had been blocked off (if I remember correctly). That may have changed in the two years since I’ve been there?
From the intersection of US-26 and OR-35, head east/northeast along OR-35.
You will drive just over 6 miles to the “exit” for Mt. Hood Meadows Road.
Drive north along Mt. Hood Meadows Road for about 1.5 miles. If you look to the right as you drive slowly by, you may notice the trail for Umbrella Falls. I believe there was a sign for the falls, but it wasn’t immediately obvious.
I turned around in the ski parking lot (after taking some pictures of Mt. Hood), and then looped back around down and parked on the side of the road.
I started along the trail to Umbrella Falls. It’s a pretty simple/straightforward trail.
Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Distance of Hike: 0.25 miles one-way